Flexibility for Dual District Collaboration
In the state of California, there are many virtual learning schools, whether public charter or private academies, that have a robust, comprehensive virtual learning program that nurtures the students learning needs. Students can and do thrive in these environments. Students can work in a live setting or at their own pace. One familiar drumbeat for students is that the social aspect is less than what they hoped for, yet they thrive. The traditional brick and mortar (BM) learning environments are at a turning point.
Before COVID-19, BM schools faced ever-increasing classroom sizes, vaping, drug use along with less attention to those with IEP's. The offerings were limited in many ways for special education. By asking parents, you will hear from them that teachers and school administrators quietly but commonly complained there were too many students to give them the quality time they felt were deserved. Additionally, campus supervisors could not police so many kids that it was practically impossible. COVID-19 brings new challenges that need to be met for a safer learning environment.
Clearly, today’s conversations are about smaller class sizes to accommodate social distancing and to incorporate a virtual learning model to assist classroom size needs. There is a silver lining from these new challenges that is the quasi learning environment where virtual meets physical school environments and bringing the best of both worlds together. How we do that makes worlds of difference.
I propose to allow parents to choose the virtual learning environment; their students may greatly benefit from any state-approved entity and incorporate that with their local school district if the parent decides to have the social inclusion for their student. Parents should not be made to pick from the few choices the district has given them for virtual learning they have within their district when there are so many other robust virtual environments.
Another concern is the social-emotional and transitional offerings of the BM schools. Many of the virtual learning environments have a plethora of age-appropriate offerings with online engagement, allowing for students to interact. Students can attend a live scheduled meeting or makeup by viewing the recorded version at their leisure. An example of high school age students' offerings would be safe dating, opening a bank account, how to apply for a job, career planning, how to make friends, building healthy relationships, the list goes on, and the learning canvas is customizable. By allowing the virtual school environments to take on this much-needed student nurturing portion of their daily learning would be a benefit for them and an offering, a parent should be able to choose to add from any state-approved learning environment.
Funding would have to be flexible between two districts, a shared fund. The red tape blocking a student's success is these two learning environments being literally separated by funding "it's mine" local school districts bemoan. Educators and administrators at the state level are trying to satisfy the challenges of Covid-19 with tight time constraints. Parents beg for quality education for their children. BM school districts are set up to fail as they try to incorporate a virtual learning model with their traditional learning model. In the long run, we will see they are not able to compete with well established, thriving virtual learning environments. Why try to create a whole new learning model? Why not just blend the two well established learning environments allowing each to do what they do best?
The state educational funds need to be flexible to make things work in our new environment. The flexibility should be easy to navigate with few barriers for school districts to be able to work together. Our students will thank us later!